Epidural: What is it? Uses, Side Effects, Procedure, Duration and Warnings

It is used to block the nerve endings in its exit from the spinal cord.

An “epidural” is a type of regional anesthetic in which a needle is placed between the bones of the spine to allow the anesthesiologist to insert a small plastic tube (or catheter) into the epidural space.

The needle is removed and local anesthesia is injected through the catheter. This local anesthetic moves (or diffuses) through the dura mater .

In the spinal canal, the functioning of the spinal nerves is temporarily stopped, so that sensation and movement in the area supplied by the nerves does not occur.

When the effect of local anesthesia disappears, the sensation and movement will return. If a weaker local anesthetic solution is used, only the painful sensations will be blocked.

This injection is used to relieve the pain that some pregnant women receive when they are giving birth. Although it also has other uses. It is an injection that enters your ” epidural space ,” which is just outside the membrane that protects your spinal cord .

Applications

Doctors use epidural injections to relieve and control pain during and after surgery, as well as to manage chronic pain.

This procedure is not suitable for all cases. But if it is an option, it requires a lower dose of medication and, as a result, has fewer side effects.

The epidural can even give you more lasting pain relief while helping you stay more alert and mobile.

Epidural nerve blocks

This is one of the most common uses of an epidural. It is a type of anesthesia that doctors can give during surgery to numb the spinal nerves and prevent pain signals from reaching the brain. It usually starts working in only 10 to 20 minutes.

You will get a nerve block through a small, flexible tube, called a catheter, that moves closer to the spine in your lower back and administers the medicine non-stop so you do not feel pain during surgery.

An epidural is directed to the nerves that carry pain signals. So you can still feel the touch and the pressure. In fact, even if you do not feel pain in your lower body, you can walk with help.

For these reasons, doctors generally recommend the use of an epidural nerve block when a woman chooses to be anesthetized during labor.

Side effects

Side effects include:

  • Fall in blood pressure.
  • Difficulty urinating and headache.

Rare complications include:

  • Hemorrhage in the epidural space.
  • Damage to the nerves and infection.

Process

Some epidural injections are done with different medications, including steroids, to reduce pain and inflammation in the back, neck, arms, or legs.

Your doctor will use an x-ray with a special dye to insert the needle in the right place.

You will choose a location along your spine from the bottom of your neck to your coccyx that is closest to the nerve that causes your pain.

Conditions that can be treated with an epidural injection include:

  • Pinched nerve.
  • Pain that radiates from the spine.
  • Herniated disc.
  • Spinal stenosis

Duration of the procedure

The procedure can take only 15 minutes and the numbing part of the injection can start to work fairly quickly. (The part of steroids, which lasts longer, should begin to work in 2 to 5 days).

The amount of time pain relief lasts is different for each person. This type of injection does not always provide pain relief. But if it does, the benefits can last up to a few months.

Doctors can also use epidural injections to find the source of their pain. In this case, the injection will be directed to a specific nerve.

If it helps to calm your pain, your doctor will know that you have found the right nerve. A common side effect is that you may feel more pain until the medicine starts working.

The most common side effects include:

  • Bleeding
  • Numbness or temporary weakness
  • Infection.
  • Headache.
  • Damage to the nerves.

Warnings

There are a number of conditions that can make it risky for you to receive an epidural injection, such as:

  • Allergies to anesthesia medications.
  • Blood clotting problems.
  • An infection.
  • Diabetes not controlled.
  • Some other medications that you are taking.

Depending on your situation, your doctor may look for another type of pain relief for you, or you may need to wait until a better time for the procedure.